As rookie seasons go, Daniil Kvyat didn’t exactly tear out of the traps and make a huge impression in 2014, scoring just eight points with a best finish of ninth. However, this does not tell the full story of a quietly impressive rookie year that saw him show a maturity and skill beyond his 20 years.
The unpronounceable Russian was particularly impressive in qualifying, starting fifth in both Russia and in Abu Dhabi. The Toro Rosso’s race pace was lacking in 2014, but the fact that Jean-Eric Vergne scored almost three times as many points in the same car provides a damning indictment on Kvyat’s first year.
Nevertheless, he was sidelined by a number of issues across the course of the year when in the running for points, and is clearly highly rated at Red Bull – he will replace Sebastian Vettel for 2015. Quite the rapid promotion, but will it be too rapid?
There is more to come from Kvyat, so let’s not make too swift a judgement just yet. However, a best finish of P9 makes it difficult to sing from the rooftops about his first year in F1.
The Russian rookie did an admirable job in his debut season in F1. You almost forget Daniil Kvyat was only 19 when the year began because once 2014 had ended, he’d turned 20 and gotten a quick promotion to the Red Bull squad from Toro Rosso.
Kvyat made an impressive nine appearances in Q3 occurred this year, with his best start of fifth occurring twice – notably on home soil in Sochi. While his results weren’t great as a follow-up – he bagged points in three of his first four races, then only twice in the remaining 15 – there were plenty of great flashes of brilliance throughout the year. He was definitely hamstrung by reliability issues, matching teammate Jean-Eric Vergne with five retirements.
My only concern with him for now is whether he’s being brought up to Red Bull too quickly. New teammate Daniel Ricciardo had a half season at HRT and two full years at Toro Rosso before his promotion, while Kvyat gets the call-up after a single season. The timing is right but you wonder given Red Bull’s quick trigger how long they’ll have the patience. Still, the opportunity is there and if Kvyat makes the year one to year two leap next season as seen by Valtteri Bottas this season, look out.
Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series
More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.
Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.
“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.
“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”
This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.
“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.
“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”
This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.
“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”
At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.
“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”
Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.
“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”
Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.
“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.
“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”